Women Veterans Health Care
Sexual assault is any type of sexual activity that occurs without the clear permission of a person involved.
This may include acts such as unwanted touching, grabbing, oral sex, anal sex, sexual penetration with an object, or being made to perform sexual acts and/or sexual intercourse. Experiencing sexual assault can impact an individual's physical and mental health in many ways.
People of all gender identities, sexual orientations, ages, racial and ethnic backgrounds, and physical sizes, appearances, and abilities have experienced sexual assault. Many individuals choose not to report being sexually assaulted because they may:
- Want to avoid thinking about the experience
- Feel shame or blame themselves
- Fear that they will not be believed or that they will be blamed by others
- Fear retaliation for reporting the assault
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate that approximately 44% of women in the United States experience sexual violence involving physical contact during their lives, and approximately 1 in 5 women experience completed or attempted rape.
Although many survivors of sexual assault are resilient, survivors are at increased risk of developing mental health difficulties after the assault. These difficulties can include Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety, anger, drug or alcohol problems, or suicidal thoughts or actions. The experience of sexual assault is also associated with health concerns such as gynecologic and reproductive difficulties, difficulties with eating and weight, and long-term conditions like diabetes and heart disease.
If you experienced sexual assault, know that you are not alone, and help is available. VA provides health and wellness resources to support you in whatever way works best for you.
What services does VA provide for individuals who experienced sexual assault?
With your consent, VA health care providers can provide treatment or referrals for mental and physical health difficulties related to the experience of sexual assault. They may also be able to recommend additional national or local health care and emotional support resources to aid in your recovery.
If you experienced sexual assault or sexual harassment during your military service, also known as Military Sexual Trauma (MST), a MST Coordinator at your nearest VA can help you access the services VA offers. MST-related services available through VA include:
- Free outpatient treatment at every VA medical center and many VA community-based outpatient clinics for physical and mental health conditions related to MST
- Free outpatient MST-related counseling at Vet Centers
- Residential (live-in) or inpatient programs for more intensive mental health treatment and support. Some facilities have separate residential programs for women only. All residential programs have separate sleeping areas for men and women.
For more information about VA's MST-related services, visit the MST page of the VA Women Veterans' Health Care website. Note that you may be able to receive free MST-related care even if you are not eligible for other VA care.
How do I access care that can assist in recovery from sexual assault at VA?
If you experienced sexual assault, talk with your VA health care provider about resources and treatment that may be available to you.
If you need immediate care:
- Go to the nearest VA medical center emergency department
- Contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or visit www.veteranscrisisline.net. You can call, text, or chat online with caring, qualified VA responders. Many of them are Veterans or family members of Veterans.
If you experienced MST, you can:
- Call your nearest VA medical center and ask to speak to the MST Coordinator
- Contact a Vet Center and ask to speak with someone about MST-related counseling
The Women Veterans Call Center is your guide to women's health
If you have questions or can't find what you're looking for, you can call, text, or chat online with the Women Veterans Call Center (WVCC) at 855-829-6636 to get help and find available resources and services in your area. Trained women representatives can also help you with issues such as:
WVCC representatives are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. ET, and Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. ET.
Where can I find more information, help and resources that can assist in recovery from the impact of sexual assault?
- VA website with information about military sexual trauma including resources available from VA
- The "Find Local Support" section of VA's Make the Connection website can help you locate resources.
- Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network (RAINN) *
- National Sexual Assault Hotline: Free, confidential, crisis support services available 24/7 by calling 1-800-656-HOPE or via chat at online.rainn.org
- Resource locator
- Mobile app
- National Sexual Violence Resource Center *
* By clicking on these links, you will leave the Department of Veterans Affairs Web site.
† VA does not endorse and is not responsible for the content of the linked Web site.